Linda Gardiner – A girl with her own newspaper column at 17

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Florence Suckling of Romsey warmed to the new society formed in 1889 by inspiring leaders. The Society for the Protection of Birds (SPB) welcomes women unlike the British Ornithologists’ Union.

Suckling formed his New Forest Branch in 1891. Among his recruits was a young woman and future RSPB secretary (the royal ‘R’ was added in 1904). Linda Gardiner’s 1893 membership card is held at Manchester Central Library (Diana Donald: “Women Against Cruelty”).

Linda (Ethelind), born in Gorleston, when her father worked for the Yarmouth Independenthad moved to Winchester in 1881. The family lived in Parchment Street. Linda, 18, is listed as the “sub-editor-in-chief” of her father’s newspaper, the Hampshire Observer and Basingstoke News. The 1891 census adds “author” to the profession of journalist.

Ethelind wrote a regular bird column at age 17. A source adds that it was when his father was editor of the Darlington and Stockton Times.

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It seems remarkable for a young girl to thrive in the male-dominated journalism of 19th-century Britain. Undoubtedly, it boosted confidence as she countered male insults, dismissing female SPB members as mere “sentimentalists”.

During her days at Winchester, Linda won a naturalist essay prize titled “The Irregularity of the Stamens” (Hampshire Advertiser, August 30, 1884). She also contributed to the Hampshire antiquarian and naturalist and the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society, the latter including an article written in 1885 on the “priest-naturalist”, Gilbert White. Linda has now experienced five thrillers, which the British Library has republished.

People will forever link Linda Gardiner to her famous fellow naturalist and romantic novelist, William Henry Hudson, “her best and most beloved friend,” as the note left with the flowers on her coffin proclaimed in 1922. It was a difficult year for Linda, as she also lost Florence Suckling, while Thomas Suckling had died the previous year. Linda’s devotion to Hudson inspired her 1923 book.

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